Red Flock and Blue Smalt

August 2, 2010

Last week an architect sent photographs of 2 wallpapers he had found in a historic townhouse he was working on. One was a linen fragment, showing a huge pattern in a velvety structure. It was a flocked linen wallhanging, dirty, discoloured, but still with the almost aristocratic air that it must have had in the early eighteenth century, when it was adorning the walls.

It reminded me of a length of flocked linen that is now in the collection of the SHBW, in Utrecht, The Netherlands.

The linen was primed and coloured with the white fond colour. Then the first part of the pattern was blockprinted with a glue instead of a colour. While the glue was still wet, a bright blue pigment was strewn on the surface. The pigment was Smalt – in fact coloured glass that was crushed to small particles. The result? Smalt particles, sparkling and twinkling in the light.

And then the process was repeated. The second part of the pattern was printed and the surface covered in orange-red wool dust – the actual flocking. The wool was warm, like velvet and matte. A superb contrast in colour and texture with the Smalt, against the soft sheen of the white coloured backgound.

Just imagine this on the wall. So overwhelming, so clever, so beautiful.
The architect was seeing the same in his flocked linen fragment.